ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory Snaps New Images of Andromeda Galaxy
The European Space Agency (ESA) has published new images of the Andromeda Galaxy taken from the agency’s Herschel Space Observatory.
The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, is the closest galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy, only 2.5 million light years away.
The ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory was launched into orbit on May 14th, 2009 and is the fourth cornerstone mission in the ESA science program. It is the largest space telescope ever launched, with a 3.5 m Cassegrain telescope onboard. Its mission is to perform photometry and spectroscopy in approximately the 55-671 µm range, filling the gap between previous infrared space missions and ground-based facilities.
According to the ESA, the Herschel Space Observatory was designed and built to observe the cool universe and is observing the structure formation in the early universe, resolving the far infrared cosmic background, revealing cosmologically evolving AGN/starburst symbiosis and galaxy evolution at the epochs when most stars in the universe were formed, unveiling the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium and its molecular clouds, the wombs of the stars, and unravelling the mechanisms governing the formation of and evolution of stars and their planetary systems, including our own solar system, putting it into context.
In short, Herschel is opening a new window to study how the universe has evolved to become the universe we see today, and how our star the sun, our planet the earth, and we ourselves fit in.
The Herschel Space Observatory seeks out clouds of gas where stars are born, and this image of Andromeda is sensitive to the far-infrared light from cool dust mixed with gas, revealing some of the very coldest dust in the Andromeda Galaxy, only 10 or 20 degrees above absolute zero, displayed as red in this image.
By comparison, warmer regions such as the densely populated central bulge, home to older stars, takes on a blue appearance.
Intricate structure is present throughout the 200 000 light-year-wide galaxy with star-formation zones organised in spiral arms and at least five concentric rings, interspersed with dark gaps where star formation is absent.
Host to several hundred billion stars, this new image of the Andromeda Galaxy clearly shows that many more stars will soon spark into existence.
Last week, NASA and The ESA entered into a joint agreement with regards to the ESA’s Dark Universe Mission, Euclid, a mission to discover and study Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
Below is a slideshow of the most recent images captured by the Hershel Space Observatory, courtesy of the ESA.
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W44 and its environment
Supernova remnant W44 is the focus of this new image created by combining data from ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories. W44 is the vast purple sphere that dominates the left hand side of this image, and measures about 100 light-years across. XMM-Newton data reveal that the remnant is filled with X-ray emission from extremely hot gas.
Herschel’s three-colour infrared view comprises PACS 70 and 160 micron and SPIRE 250 micron images. X-ray data from XMM-Newton’s EPIC instrument for W44 only has been added in light and dark blue to represent high- (2–8 keV) and low-energy (1.2–2 keV) X-ray emission, respectively.
The field of view is about 1º across. North is towards the bottom left of the image; east is to the top right.
Credits: Herschel: Q. Nguyen Luong & F. Motte, HOBYS Key Program consortium, Herschel SPIRE/PACS/ESA consortia. XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton
Blowing bubbles in the Carina Nebula
The Carina Nebula, by ESA’s Herschel space observatory. The image shows the effects of massive star formation – powerful stellar winds and radiation have carved pillars and bubbles in dense clouds of gas and dust.
The image covers approximately 2.3 x 2.3 degrees of the Carina Nebula complex and was mapped using Herschel instruments PACS and SPIRE at wavelengths of 70, 160, and 250 microns, corresponding to the blue, green, and red channels, respectively. North is to the upper left and east is to the lower left.
Credits: ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Thomas Preibisch, Universitäts-Sternwarte München, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.
Vela C region
The Vela C region, part of the Vela complex, by ESA’s Herschel space observatory. The image demonstrates Herschel’s ability to trace both high- and low-mass star formation at a range of evolutionary stages, from cool filaments, pre-stellar cores and protostars to more evolved regions containing dust that has been gently heated by hot stars.
The image was mapped using Herschel instruments PACS and SPIRE at wavelengths of 70, 160, and 250 microns, corresponding to the blue, green and red channels, respectively. North is to the right and east is up.
Credits: ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortia, T. Hill, F. Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/IRFU – CNRS/INSU – Uni. Paris Diderot, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium
Baby stars in Orion Nebula
This new view of the Orion Nebula shows embryonic stars within extensive gas and dust clouds. Combining far-infrared observations from the Herschel Space Observatory and mid-infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the image shows newly forming stars surrounded by remnant gas and dust in the form of discs and larger envelopes.
Data from the PACS instrument on Herschel at wavelengths of 70 and 160 microns (a micron is a millionth of a metre) are shown as green and red, respectively, and reveal emission from the disks and envelopes of the very youngest protostars. Two Spitzer instruments, IRAC and MIPS, were used to obtain images of the same region at 8 and 24 microns, which are combined here as blue. These wavelengths show emission from the hotter regions of discs around somewhat older stars.
The region shown covers roughly 25×25 arcminutes on the sky or 3×3 parsecs at the distance to Orion.
Herschel’s three-colour view of asteroid Apophis
ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory captured asteroid Apophis in its field of view during the approach to Earth on 5/6 January 2013. This image shows the asteroid in Herschel’s three PACS wavelengths: 70, 100 and 160 microns, respectively.
Its closest pass, on 9 January 2013, brings it to 14.45 million km from Earth, 35–40 times that of the distance of the Moon. In 2029, it will approach even closer than the geostationary orbit of many satellites, which are positioned at an altitude of 36 000 km.
During the latest pass, Herschel collected important information about the physical properties of the asteroid, which will help astronomers make refined predictions for the future trajectory of the asteroid.
Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MACH-11/MPE/B.Altieri (ESAC) and C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory)
Stunning new Herschel and XMM-Newton image of the Eagle Nebula
Combining almost opposite ends of the electromagnetic spectrum, this composite of the Herschel in far-infrared and XMM-Newton’s X-ray images shows how the hot young stars detected by the X-ray observations are sculpting and interacting with the surrounding ultra-cool gas and dust, which, at only a few degrees above absolute zero, is the critical material for star formation itself. Both wavelengths would be blocked by Earth’s atmosphere, so are critical to our understanding of the lifecycle of stars
Credits: far-infrared: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium; X-ray: ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/XMM-Newton-SOC/Boulanger
Betelgeuse’s enigmatic environment
Composite colour image of the Herschel PACS 70, 100, 160 micron-wavelength images of Betelgeuse. North is to the top left, east is to the bottom left, and the image is about 25 arcminutes across.
The star (centre) is surrounded by a clumpy envelope of material in its immediate vicinity. A series of arcs 6–7 arcminutes to the left of the star is material ejected from Betelgeuse as it evolved into a red supergiant star, shaped by its bow shock interaction with the interstellar medium. A faint linear bar of dust is illuminated at a distance of 9 arcminutes and may represent a dusty filament connected to the local Galactic magnetic field or the edge of an interstellar cloud. If so, then Betelgeuse’s motion across the sky implies that the arcs will hit the wall in 5000 years time, with the star colliding with the wall 12 500 years later.
Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS/L. Decin et al
This new view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation.
The image combines data acquired with the PACS instrument at 70 micron (corresponding to the blue channel) and 160 micron (corresponding to the green channel) and with the SPIRE instrument at 250 micron (corresponding to the red channel). The observations were made on 24 May 2010 and 18 December 2010. North is to the lower-right and east to the upper-right.
Credits: ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frédérique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu – CNRS/INSU – Univ. Paris Diderot, France.